Skip to main content

tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  December 11, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EST

10:00 pm
it was one lie after another lie after another lie after >> it doesn't make any sense, does it? >> no. >> reporter: how did he look? >> horrible. >> he drank something sweet. and deadly. >> reporter: he had those crystals. there was no question. >> no question. >> the real question -- why would he do it? >> he was stressed out. something was going on there. >> what had happened to ray. soon it wasn't just doctors and his family asking that question. it was detectives. >> this was most likely not a suicide. >> he had enemies. he received a surprise package
10:01 pm
from one. >> this man sent my dad a bomb. >> we were there for a surprise phone call from another. [ phone ringing ] >> can i get it? >> reporter: it's josh mankiewicz from dateline. is there anything you wanna say? >> no shortage of suspects. just a shortage of detectives. >> reporter: all kinds of things go wrong in murder investigations, but the police department running out of money is usually not one of the things you think of. >> no. i pressed on. i did what i had to do. >> would she ever find justice? >> it's your father. your father was murdered, you're not gonna give up. >> i'm lester holt and this is dateline. here's josh mankiewicz with "something sweet." >> reporter: the course of true love takes some strange twists and turns, particularly when it flows out of an online dating site. occasionally, a cyber-fling blossoms into a marriage. this is the story of one of those marriages -- what went
10:02 pm
right, and what did not. back in 2002, ray kotomski was a 60-year-old, happily retired, former corrections officer, living comfortably by himself in a house in the pennsylvania woods after his 36-year marriage had ended in divorce. ray had three grown children. monica is his middle child. tell me about your dad? >> a man's man. he was -- he loved outdoor kind of stuff. he loved hunting, fishing, stuff like that. a hard worker. he had a heart of gold. >> reporter: after his divorce from monica's mother, ray was lonely. the next step was as close as his keyboard. so he tried online dating. >> yeah. >> reporter: yeah, did you make that face when he said he was doing it? >> yes, absolutely. i did, yes. yes, i did. >> you said, "you never know who you're gonna wind up with." >> that's right, yeah. >> reporter: and one day he tells you he met someone. >> well, he just said that he liked her, he was gonna go on a few dates with her. >> reporter: the woman ray met
10:03 pm
was teresa bowers lovin. she lived one state over in ohio. a 43-year-old nurses assistant, teresa had three kids herself -- a grown daughter and son, and a younger son at home. >> i've kind of known her my whole life. >> reporter: beth burcham is a friend of teresa's who grew up with teresa's daughter sara. the three women all went to meet ray on that first date. >> she was, like, "well, i'm gonna go meet him. do you guys wanna go with me?" >> reporter: so what can did she think about him? >> i liked him. he was smart-mouthed and just fun. >> reporter: so what did she think about him? >> she's, like, "oh, i really like this guy. i'm gonna see him again." >> reporter: and see him again she did. soon, teresa was driving two hours to be with ray on weekends. teresa's son josh was a high schooler when his mom and ray got together. >> he made my mom happy. she definitely hadn't smiled like that in years. >> reporter: what'd she like about him? >> my mom was a big country music fan. i think that was her kenny rogers in the making there. >> reporter: she thought ray looked like kenny rogers? >> that was kind of like what we joked with her about, but i mean, she definitely thought he
10:04 pm
was handsome. >> reporter: things were clearly clicking for josh's mom and ray. in may 2004, they got married. friends and family say ray couldn't do enough for teresa, starting with an elaborate wedding. your dad kind of doted on teresa. >> yes. >> reporter: spent a lot of money on her. did whatever she wanted. took her out. pampered her. >> absolutely. >> reporter: sounds like he was sort of an old-fashioned gentleman type. >> yes, he was. >> reporter: it seemed a match made in cyber-heaven. the newlyweds bought a house close to teresa's family in ashtabula county, ohio. but happily ever after did not last. in october 2006 came a terrible blow. teresa's daughter sara was killed in a car crash, leaving her infant daughter and toddler son without a mom. roy lovin, jr is teresa's older son and sarah's brother. >> she was 21 years old, on her
10:05 pm
way to work one morning and i guess hydroplaned, swerved, and hit a tree. >> reporter: parents are not supposed to bury their children. >> no, and then the fact that she had two little babies -- two little kids and the fathers were not really in the picture, somebody had to step up and take them kids. >> reporter: and that was your mom. >> she was the first one with her hands out ready and willing to take them. >> reporter: teresa and ray transitioned from the joy of hand-them-back- when-they're-crying grandparents to the daily grind of surrogate parents to two-year old gavin and baby helana. then, not long after teresa's daughter's death, another body-blow. teresa's granddaughter helana was diagnosed with cancer. ray kotomski did the right thing. he and teresa were soon spending alternating weeks in a cleveland hospital where baby helena was being treated. ray even shaved his own head when the little girl lost her
10:06 pm
hair from the chemo. it sounds like he really sort of bonded with helena. >> absolutely, yeah. he had mentioned to a family member that he felt that god put him here exactly at that time for a reason, and it was to take care of her. >> reporter: helena's cancer went into remission, but ray and teresa's relationship suffered collateral damage. according to teresa's family, the strain of becoming a father again had made ray toxic. he was, they said, angry and drinking more beer than usual. >> mom was scared, so mom couldn't tell him to cut back on his drinking. he was stressed out, or something was going on there. >> reporter: sounds like a pretty unhappy guy. >> totally. >> reporter: ray's family says he was fine, and that his drinking was never a problem. but by early august 2009, teresa apparently had enough of ray. she and the grandchildren moved to an apartment in a nearby town.
10:07 pm
on tuesday, august 11, a few days after she moved out, teresa and and ray reconciled enough to take the grandkids to lunch, and to feed the fish at a state park. the following day, teresa left the children with her friend beth and went back to the house to do laundry. what teresa said she found when she got there midmorning was a clearly sick, nearly naked, somewhat incoherent ray. he refused to let her call a doctor. teresa told beth about it. >> she said "he was acting so weird," when she came back to get the kids, and he wasn't feeling good. >> reporter: the next morning, when she couldn't reach ray on the phone, teresa asked her mother, who lived near ray, to check on him. when teresa's mom got to the house, she found ray unconscious. she called teresa, who alerted 911. >> is everything okay? >> no. i need an ambulance. >> okay. >> man down. umm, barely -- not, um, it's my husband -- >> all right. i'll send the ambulance. >> all right, thank you.
10:08 pm
>> reporter: teresa phoned beth and raced to be with ray. and what did she say had happened? >> that her mom had found him on the floor, naked, unresponsive. >> reporter: the ambulance arrived at the house around the same time as teresa. emts scrambled to stabilize ray. teresa rode in the with her husband to the nearest hospital. there, an emergency room team struggled to revive him. but whatever ailed ray, it was too serious a case for the local hospital. he was taken by to a level-two trauma center in erie, pennsylvania, and he was barely clinging to life. a medical crisis, but also a mystery, what had happened to ray? >> i didn't know what the think. >> but when investigators look a little more closely, they find it a little more suspicious.
10:09 pm
>> he had to crystals? >> he did. ♪ [ male announcer ] pain not sitting too well? burning to feel better? itching for relief? preparation h offers the most maximum strength solutions for all hemorrhoid symptoms. from the brand doctors recommend most. preparation h. don't stand for hemorrhoids. give the gift of the better network. save up to 50% on our hottest android smartphones like the motorola droid turbo 2. get the best deals and the better network. toys"r"us has themost awesome toys... like us
10:10 pm
yeah, i bet we get snatched- guess i'll pick up where he left off... i bet we get- as he was saying, i bet yeah, wassup? get $10 off your $50 purchase of barbie dolls play sets and accessories online and in our whole store of... awesome! time in the service... community college... it matters. it's why we, at university of phoenix, count your relevant work and college experience as credits toward your degree. learn more at so i wanted you to have the ring to match.... at jared, we only sell one piece of jewelry... the engagement ring you had designed just for her. and it's waiting for you... at jared. this weekend at jared, create your own, one-of-a-kind ring... and receive get set in diamonds rewards. up to a thousand dollars toward a beautiful setting when you buy your diamond at jared. the one ring that's unlike any other is waiting for you... this weekend only... at jared.
10:11 pm
10:12 pm
>> reporter: a worried family converged on hamot medical center in erie, pennsylvania on anti-freeze. but it looked as if they figured it out too late. even in small amounts, just a few ounces, anti-freeze is
10:13 pm
almost always fatal. ray's daughter monica was with her dad. >> he was just laying' in bed. >> how did he look? >> horrible. >> what were you thinking? >> i didn't know what to think. because nothing was making any sense. >> reporter: ray kotomski had missed the narrow window in which anti-freeze poisoning can be reversed. end of life discussions with doctors began. as his wife, it was teresa's call. three days after he was admitted to the hospital teresa told the doctors to let him go. her son josh watched teresa make that agonizing decision. >> s devhe wastated. absolutely devastated. i could see it in her face. >> hard to do? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: ray's death was referred to dr. eric vey, the medical examiner in the erie county coroner's office. >> by the time mr. kotomski got to you antifreeze poisoning was already suspected. so you were looking pretty
10:14 pm
specifically for that? >> my job at autopsy was just to confirm the presence of the oxalate crystals in the kidney which clearly indicated that he had ethylene glycol on board. >> and he had those crystals. there was no question. >> no question. slam dunk. >> reporter: the medical examiner determined the cause of death was ethylene- glycol poisoning, but the manner of death was listed as undetermined. teresa said ray told her he drank something sweet around the time he got sick. and, anti-freeze had a very sweet taste. she also told the er doctor in the ohio hospital that ray had been threatening to kill himself. it was looking like suicide. ray's children didn't buy it. >> what were you thinking? >> the only thing i was thinking was i didn't believe the whole, "he drank something sweet, it was antifreeze." my dad would never do that. all of us knew that. >> reporter: and so when ray kotomski died, the wheels of
10:15 pm
justice began to slowly spin. taylor cleveland is a detective with the ashtabula county sheriff's office. >> we received a call from the erie county coroner's office they wanted to give us the earliest heads up that they could that there was probably something in this case ray kotomski death, that was not natural, something that was quite possibly a homicide. >> reporter: if this was homicide, investigators had plenty of work to do. >> raymond had been a corrections officer. >> yes. >> and had unquestionably during his career dealt with some pretty bad guys who were locked up. >> yes. >> reporter: cops started looking into ray's past to see if someone was settling an old score. three days after his death, techs processed teresa and ray's house as a crime scene, but it had been cleaned by the time they got there. ray's bedding was in an outside trash can; there were numerous crushed beer and dr. pepper cans, and, in the garage, right
10:16 pm
where you'd expect to find them, were two containers of anti-freeze. one sealed. one open. and that told investigators nothing. because there were no fingerprints or dna on either container. >> how long after raymond died did you speak with teresa? >> a couple of days after. >> typically when investigators start looking back at somebody's marriage they see either a great marriage or a bad marriage or something in between. this was what? >> according to teresa this was not a good marriage. >> she admitted that? >> yes. >> so, she had to be a suspect pretty much right from the get-go? >> unfortunately, wives kill their husbands. and we see that quite often. so you have to at least look at her. >> reporter: teresa laid out for investigators her actions in the days leading up to ray's death. she again said she'd tried to get ray to seek medical assistance when he first got
10:17 pm
sick but he refused. she said ray had been miserable and unhappy, and she speculated that he committed suicide. this was detective work 101. teresa, the suspect spouse, had means, motive, and opportunity, but when detectives dug deeper into the strange life and times of teresa and ray kotomski, their case took a head-snapping turn in the direction of a totally new suspect. >> coming up. a blast from the past. >> this man had gotten a bomb. >> turns out, there was someone who had tried to kill ray once before. when dateline can continues. (vo) new tidy cats lightweight with glade.
10:18 pm
all the strength and freshness, now easy to lift! half the weight, smells great. find the litter that works best for you. every home, every cat. there's a tidy cats for that.
10:19 pm
during red lobster's ultimate seafood celebration. with jazzed up new dishes like the decadent grand seafood feast and the ultimate wood-grilled feast why wait to celebrate? so hurry in, it ends soon. ♪ now earn 10% cash back at amazon with chase freedom. through december. chase freedom. the card is for the essentials. the cash back is for the fun. learn more at chase. so you can. happy holidays! switch to cricket wireless and for a limited time, choose from four smartphones, now free after mail-in rebate cricket visa promotion card. and get more 4g lte coverage
10:20 pm
nationwide than t-mobile or sprint. woohoo! only from the merrier carrier. cricket wireless. something to smile about. >> reporter: ray kotomski was
10:21 pm
dead. and his wife teresa believed it was suicide. but law enforcement thought this smelled like a murder. that someone had poisoned ray with anti-freeze. detectives looked for his killer among the thousands of the worst of the worst criminals ray had spent a career guarding in pennsylvania's maximum security prisons. raymond was not the corrections officer that all the inmates hated and, you know, vowed to get even with once they got outside? >> quite the opposite, that -- raymond and the people that raymond associated with during his time at the prison were generally respected and did not run into a lot of problems -- with inmates. >> reporter: so to cops, it didn't look like anyone from back in the day had it in for ray. but there was someone from his, and teresa's recent past who had once wanted ray out of the way, if not dead. detectives learned that in the winter of 2003, when ray and
10:22 pm
teresa were first getting to know one another, she was also seeing another man she'd met online, a fellow by the name of robert reichard, and she left ray for a few weeks to be with robert. when teresa went back to ray, robert did not take that well. not at all. >> robert was infatuated with her, and wanted teresa to leave ray. to leave ray for him. >> reporter: reichard stalked the couple. he vandalized teresa's car. and then it really escalated. >> robert decided to try and remove raymond from the equation, sent raymond a letter bomb. >> reporter: a real bomb? >> a real bomb, a functional, working bomb. >> reporter: raymond went to his mailbox, found a package that looked odd and brought it to the state police barracks. the bomb squad detonated it. if raymond had opened that package would he have been killed? >> he would have been severely injured if not killed.
10:23 pm
>> reporter: robert said at the time that he had wanted to be with teresa and that he thought that raymond was in the way. now, when i look at teresa i guess i don't see the femme fatale that guys wanna kill for. >> neither do i. >> reporter: but it's there. >> in some fashion, yes. >> reporter: ray's daughter monica remembers a phone call from her father about the bomb. >> his voice was shaky, it was something i've never heard before. >> reporter: what'd you say? what'd you think? >> i didn't know what to think. i -- i think -- at first i couldn't believe it. >> reporter: robert reichard pleaded guilty to manufacturing a firearm and was sentenced to five years in prison. he was paroled just months before ray kotomski became mysteriously ill. >> reporter: did you wonder whether he had anything to do with it? >> yeah. absolutely. i mean, teresa was the last one with him.
10:24 pm
but this man sent my dad a bomb. >> reporter: monica wasn't the only one wondering about that. when you discover that somebody else tried to kill your victim, and is now out of prison, that changes everything. >> it does. we had one of two options in this case. either it was a wife killing her husband, or some elaborate plot to finish what mr. reichard had started and was unsuccessful with. >> reporter: detectives tracked down their new suspect. >> he was living what appeared to be a normal life in western pennsylvania. >> you or other investigators probably spoke with his employer, coworkers, family? >> investigators from our office spoke with a lot of people associated with robert reichard. >> reporter: could you track mr. reichard's movements? >> he was not on gps monitoring at the time, no. >> reporter: so, if he was going to see teresa or if he was gonna stalk raymond nobody would've known about it?
10:25 pm
>> be a fair assessment. >> reporter: he certainly would've had access to antifreeze. everybody has access -- >> everybody has access to antifreeze. >> reporter: while detectives were trying to find out if teresa's ex- boyfriend turned letter bomber had anything to do with ray's death, they dug deeper into teresa's past. but the investigation went slowly. weeks became months. ray's family counted the days. >> it just felt like we were getting' swept under the rug. >> reporter: some people would of given up in that instance. >> how could you? it's your father. your father was murdered, you're not gonna give up. >> reporter: so what'd you do? >> i pressed on. i did what i had to do. i made sure that there was justice. >> reporter: that was easier said than done. hard times were coming to ashtabula county. coming up -- the case goes cold because instead of looking for killers, detectives are looking for work. all kinds of things go wrong in murder investigations, but the
10:26 pm
police department running out of money is usually not one of the things you think of. >> no. earn once when you buy, and again as you pay. that's cash back now, and cash back again later. it's cash back déjà vu. the citi double cash card. the only card that lets you earn cash back twice on every purchase with 1% when you buy and 1% as you pay. with two ways to earn, it makes a lot of other cards seem one sided. [ d[ bark ] ] there it is! [ gasps ] oh no! look, the sky's awake!
10:27 pm
♪ that. was. epic! [ bark ]
10:28 pm
10:29 pm
10:30 pm
>> reporter: in america, our do-it-yourself culture extends even to killing. there are more than 40-thousand suicides each year in the united states, far more than the number of homicides. and that was the issue. there wasn't any question what killed ray kotomski. that was antifreeze. but by whose hand? ray's widow teresa and her family maintained a despondent ray killed himself when teresa left him. ray's children and the cops thought it was murder. two theories and if murder two possible suspects. teresa, the grieving wife. and teresa's fresh-from-the-slammer ex-boyfriend who'd once tried to mail- bomb ray out of the way.
10:31 pm
but his story was checking out. >> we just couldn't find anything other than his prior association with raymond that would suggest that he did this. >> reporter: i'm guessing now she and robert reichard changed places in the suspect pantheon? >> 100%. >> reporter: she's at the top of the list? >> yes. >> reporter: but the investigation into the death of ray kotomski was about to turn as cold as ashtabula county in february. for a very odd reason. >> shortly after this case was investigated by our department there was a financial collapse and we laid off about 90% of our officers.
10:32 pm
>> reporter: the county, what, ran out of money? >> yes. >> reporter: and the result was. >> murders were not getting solved. >> reporter: ray kotomski's case was one of them. his children were not happy. >> i wasn't trying to be a pain in the butt. i didn't want them to drop the case. >> reporter: then the county runs out of money. >> yes. >> reporter: i mean, all kinds of things go wrong in murder investigations, but the police department running out of money is usually not one of the things you think of. >> no. unh-uh. >> reporter: and, for almost two years, nothing happened. >> yeah. >> reporter: monica's two children were out of the house. she was able to take time off from helping her husband with his construction business and devote hours to her mission. >> i sent letters to everybody. and i was constantly calling the sheriff's dept for new information and whatnot but i wasn't getting anywhere. >> reporter: and meanwhile, back in ashtabula county life went on. >> reporter: what was teresa doing during those 18 months that you weren't able to investigate?
10:33 pm
>> she was filing for life insurance, collecting life insurance from raymond kotomski. >> reporter: some of the 150-thousand dollars in insurance went to buy a house where teresa was raising her grandchildren. and, about a year after ray's death, there was a new man in her life. tim schumaker was an over-the-road trucker when he and teresa found each other. >> reporter: how'd you and theresa meet? >> on the internet. >> reporter: what'd you like about her? >> she was attentive. just a sweet lady. >> reporter: before long, tim and teresa were living together. tim gave up long distance trucking for a job closer to home. >> reporter: she tell you she was a suspect in a murder investigation? >> she told me. >> reporter: and she said, "i didn't do it. i didn't have anything to do with it." >> she didn't have to say that she didn't do it. i knew she didn't do it. >> reporter: ashtabula county's investigation may have been frozen in red ink but ray's daughter monica was still in action. emailing, cajoling, pleading. >> i wrote letters to the ohio
10:34 pm
attorney general. then i got a phone call and they said they were looking into it. >> reporter: ohio attorney general mike dewine had recently started a cold case unit and, in september 2012, three years after ray kotomski's death, dewine's office reopened the case, with teresa the prime suspect. >> i didn't want her to get away with murder. my prosecutors and detectives didn't want to see that happen either. >> reporter: those investigators were glad to be back in business. there were reasons they liked teresa for ray's murder. one had to do with a story they heard about her first marriage. >> her previous husband, roy lovin, told us that teresa had put rat poison in his mashed potatoes. >> reporter: and he knew that how? >> roy said that he took two bites and fed some to their son teresa reached into her son's mouth, pulled out the mashed potatoes.
10:35 pm
roy said that he got pretty ill after that. >> reporter: the son was okay? >> the son was okay, yes. roy said that the only other thought that he gave that was when his german shepherd was poisoned. roy said that he never connected the two until raymond was poisoned. >> reporter: teresa's son from that first marriage is roy jr., and he says that never happened. >> reporter: there's a story out there that your mom tried to poison your father. >> it's all lies. >> reporter: why would your father lie about this? >> maybe he is jealous. maybe he -- maybe he feels that she ruined his life. i don't know. maybe this is his way of getting back at her. >> reporter: and, there was a polygraph exam she took she took early in he investigation. the examiner had asked teresa two questions: did you poison ray with
10:36 pm
anti-freeze? and, do you know who poisoned ray? teresa's answer to both: no. which was also the answer to whether teresa was telling the truth. >> she failed her polygraph test. >> reporter: that lie detector failure was inadmissible in court but helped convince cops they were on the right track. they turned the heat back up on teresa. >> and they told her that they know that she snapped, and she -- she killed him. she needed to confess, so they kind of threatened her. >> reporter: she didn't bend to that. >> no. she goes, "well, i want a lawyer." >> reporter: teresa's family and friends like beth burcham rallied around her. they felt ray's family just wouldn't or couldn't face the fact that he committed suicide. >> i think they don't wanna believe that ray would do that. i really do. >> reporter: you think they're just looking for somebody to blame. >> yeah. other than ray. >> reporter: but on march 28,
10:37 pm
2014, five years after ray's death, officers surrounded teresa's house. >> we knocked on the door early in the morning, told teresa that we had a warrant for her arrest and she was under arrest for the murder of raymond kotomski. she didn't look surprised. >> she kissed me as she was going. she almost started bawling, but something, god come over her, and -- and she was okay. >> i was crazy happy. it was like, "wow, we finally got somewhere." >> reporter: after a few days in jail teresa was released on bond. law enforcement officials knew the case had problems. ohio attorney general mike dewine's people gave ray's family a depressingly realistic appraisal. >> we told them all along, "this is gonna be a tough case. be prepared. be prepared for a loss." >> reporter: we might not win this. >> reporter: we might not win this case.
10:38 pm
>> reporter: coming up: proof teresa is innocent or proof of the perfect crime? >> reporter: did you find any dna on the part of mrs. kotomski? >> no we found no dna. >> reporter: and you found no fingerprints correct? >> that's correct. >> reporter: when dateline continues. ♪ our hearts will see ♪ a world where men are free. we swing it like that? ♪ someday all our dreams will come to be. ♪ ♪ someday in a world where people are free. ♪ ♪ maybe not in time for you and me, yeah ♪ ♪ but someday at christmas time. ♪
10:39 pm
♪ someday at christmas time. yeah, give ourselves a hand. ♪ ♪ ♪ during red lobster's ultimate seafood celebration. with jazzed up new dishes like the decadent grand seafood feast and the ultimate wood-grilled feast why wait to celebrate? so hurry in, it ends soon. arturito souokay, okay. arturito soup! hi! arturito soup? follow me. campbell's new star wars inspired soups. arturito soup! yaaa! made for real, real life.
10:40 pm
if you have moderate to severe ...isn't it time to let the... ...real you shine... ...through? introducing otezla, apremilast. otezla is not an injection, or a cream. it's a pill that treats plaque psoriasis differently. some people who took otezla saw 75% clearer skin after 4 months. and otezla's prescribing information has no requirement for routine lab monitoring. don't take otezla if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. otezla may increase... ...the risk of depression. tell your doctor if you have a history of depression... ...or suicidal thoughts, or if these feelings develop. some people taking otezla reported weight loss. your doctor should monitor your weight and may stop treatment. side effects may include diarrhea, nausea,
10:41 pm
upper respiratory tract infection, and headache. tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, and if you're pregnant or planning to be. ask your doctor about otezla today. otezla. show more of you. >> reporter: it was july of 2015, almost six years after
10:42 pm
ray kotomski's death, when his wife teresa went on trial. there were two charges -- contaminating a substance for human consumption, and murder, both part of the accusation that teresa poisoned ray with antifreeze by somehow slipping it into something he ate or drank, like beer or soda. teresa's lawyer, veteran trial attorney paul hentemann, was confident. >> there's no question in my view she was absolutely innocent of the crime. >> reporter: prosecutors offered teresa plea deals which would have resulted in little jail time. >> she was absolutely, categorically convinced that she did not commit the crime. and she felt that god was in her corner and she was not going to be convicted of -- of any crime. she did nothing wrong. >> reporter: another twist -- attorney hentemann asked for a bench trial -- no jury. judge gary yost would alone rule on teresa's guilt or innocence.
10:43 pm
if she killed ray, or if he committed suicide. in her opening statement, prosecutor emily pelphrey attacked the idea that ray killed himself. >> he was planning for his future. he loved his grandchildren. >> reporter: the doctor who treated ray in the hospital where he died testified teresa herself said ray was not suicidal. >> she had indicated that he had not mentioned anything about feeling suicidal at that time. >> reporter: no, the state argued. this was murder. medical examiner dr. eric vey testified that antifreeze killed ray. >> he died as a result of complications of ethylene glycol toxicity. >> reporter: but exactly how antifreeze kills was critical to the state's case. when somebody ingests antifreeze, either deliberately or because somebody else gave it to them, what's the progression of symptoms? >> well, initially they'll appear to be drunk or stuporous. and then they'll become progressively lethargic, and then become comatose.
10:44 pm
and then they'll start to have congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema, and then they'll start to go into renal failure and then eventually die. >> reporter: you can sort of estimate when they ingested the antifreeze based on where their symptoms are at that point? >> that's exactly right. it's possible to get a rough estimate of when the ingestion occurred. >> reporter: the keystone of the state's case was the progression of symptoms that prosecutors contended would show when ray ingested the antifreeze. you were able to establish a timeline? >> when the ems arrived at his residence he was already lethargic and almost comatose. so we already know from his clinical presentation at that point that he's probably 12 to 24 hours in. >> reporter: the m.e.'s estimate dovetailed with the prosecutor's timeline -- that ray must have ingested the antifreeze the day he and teresa took that outing with the grandchildren. to support their timeline, prosecutors introduced this
10:45 pm
voicemail. ray left it for a friend several hours after the state says teresa poisoned him. >> i'm sorry, i'm sorry, i'm sorry. >> reporter: on the tape, the prosecution argued, ray sounds drunk -- >> have i told you i think you're a nice person? call me back if you can. okay, bye. >> reporter: prosecutors say he was really in the stuporous early stages of anti-freeze poisoning. >> we contend that that's when the ethyl glycolene, or the antifreeze, was ingested. >> reporter: and, they argued, it had to have been teresa who gave it to him, because no one else was with ray then. and how did they know that? well, from what she told this fbi agent. >> she stated that over that week she -- he did not have any
10:46 pm
visitors and she was the only one there. >> reporter: in addition to their science-based timeline that put teresa in the bull's eye, the state wanted judge yost to consider teresa's behavior while ray was dying. in the gallery, monica wept as her younger sister kimberly testified how teresa ended life support for their father without consulting ray's side of the family, and the terms she said teresa dictated for releasing ray's body to her. >> the conditions were that i had to have him cremated and that she wanted to make sure i wouldn't be the beneficiary. >> reporter: it was all part of a pattern, prosecutors argued, that added up to murder. >> the state contends there is absolutely no evidence that it is at all reasonable to conclude that anyone other than the defendant, mrs. kotomski, is the one who provided that ethyl, that antifreeze to her husband. >> reporter: when the defense had its turn, attorney hentemann told the judge the state had no case. not a scrap of evidence. he got the fbi agent who took teresa's initial statement to
10:47 pm
concede she may have been confused about whether she was even with ray on the day the state says she poisoned him. >> she may have been wrong about that, correct? >> she could have been wrong about that. >> reporter: this was suicide, he argued. not murder. and what practically proved it, according to the defense, was the fact that ray did nothing to save himself. >> and one could conclude that, if someone gave you poison and you became ill, what would be the first thing you would do? you would call the police or you would call a hospital. that never occurred. >> reporter: hentemann then attacked the state's most glaring weakness, a total lack of physical evidence connecting his client to containers of antifreeze. lead detective taylor cleveland was cross-examined about the absence of any forensics. >> did you find any dna on the part of mrs. kotomski? >> no, we found no dna, mr. kotomski or otherwise. >> and you found no fingerprints of mrs. kotomski on the can, correct?
10:48 pm
>> that's correct. >> reporter: teresa's attorney went after the prosecution's timeline. he got one of the state's medical witnesses to concede she couldn't tell exactly when ray drank the antifreeze. >> you don't how long he suffered from it nor do you know how much he had ingested? >> correct. >> reporter: under cross-examination, the m.e. admitted he couldn't answer the question at the heart of the case. >> you don't know whether it was a homicide or you don't know whether it was a suicide. is that a fair correct? >> that is correct. yes. >> reporter: hentemann produced his own expert witness to refute the state's toxicity timeline as suspect science. >> it's impossible to determine when the ethylene glycol may have been ingested because it may have been ingested as one dose or at one time or several smaller doses over an undermined period of time. >> reporter: in his close, attorney hentemann suggested all of it amounted to at the very
10:49 pm
least, reasonable doubt. >> i'm suggesting to you that it's a suicide. and if the facts don't add up, then you have to rule in favor of the defendant. >> reporter: teresa never testified. her family and ray's waited, as judge yost retired to his chambers to make his decision. coming up -- >> i was so afraid that she was gonna get away with it. >> i have faith in her. >> reporter: the verdict. and -- [ phone ringing ] >> reporter: a surprise phone call. >> can i get it? >> yeah, yeah. okay. >> they have no evidence on me. they have none.
10:50 pm
♪ i love it eat special, feel special. discover more ways to eat special ...with special k. it's the toys"r"us 2 day sale this friday and saturday, beatbo. you can save 30% on toys that really wow! whoa! no no, wow. [beatbo] who? [smart bear] never mind. the toys"r"us 2 day sale. save big storewide and get 30% off toys that wow. awwwesome! time in the service... community college... it matters. it's why we, at university of phoenix, count your relevant work and college experience as credits toward your degree. learn more at just serve classy snacks and bew a gracious host,iday party.
10:51 pm
no matter who shows up. do you like nuts? give the gift of the better network. save up to 50% on our hottest android smartphones like the motorola droid turbo 2. get the best deals and the better network. iit's just a cough.ur cough, you'd see how often you cough all day and so would everyone else. new robitussin 12 hour delivers fast, powerful cough relief that lasts up to twelve hours. new robitussin 12 hour cough relief. because it's never just a cough. i was wondering if you for the rest of your life. at jared, we only sell one piece of jewelry... the one she'll wear forever... and it's waiting for you... at jared. this weekend at jared, create your own, one-of-a-kind ring... and receive get set in diamonds rewards.
10:52 pm
up to a thousand dollars toward a beautiful setting when you buy your diamond at jared. the one ring that's unlike any other is waiting for you... this weekend only... at jared.
10:53 pm
malo la mayoría de la gente thursday, july 30,2015. judgment day in ashtabula county. judge gary yost had reached his decision. the families of accused murderer teresa kotomski and her dead husband ray made their way to the courthouse. >> by the time i got to the courthouse, my whole body was literally shaking. i was so afraid, like, i worked up to that almost six years. and i was so afraid that she was
10:54 pm
going to get away with it. >> reporter: it looked as if ray's daughter's fears were justified. >> the court finds the defendant, teresa kotomski, not guilty of contaminating a substance for human consumption. >> reporter: the judge reads the first count, tampering with food. >> yeah. >> reporter: not guilty. >> um-hm. >> reporter: and you think, "well, that's it." >> yeah, we're done. she got away with it. >> reporter: it is a moment monica will look back on for the rest of her life. were you looking at teresa. >> yeah. >> reporter: and thinking what? >> i had hate. i did. >> reporter: judge reads the second count. >> the court finds that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, teresa kotomski, is the person who administered the antifreeze to raymond kotomski. the court finds the defendant guilty of murder. >> ms. kotomski, do you wish to make a statement at this time? >> your honor, i want you to know i did not hurt my husba. i did not give him poison.
10:55 pm
i did not give him anything to harm him at all. i loved my husband. i swear before god. i never, ever, would hurt anybody, especially my husband. >> the sentence was mandatory. >> which has an indefinite term of imprisonment of 15 years to life. >> i love her. i want to be with her. i have faith in her. i don't think she's guilty. >> reporter: while teresa's attorney appeals her conviction, tim shumaker, teresa's boyfriend of five years, is standing by his woman. he's raising her grandkids. and not long after teresa began serving her sentence, tim asked her to marry him. teresa said yes. you meet this woman. she's already a suspect in a murder investigation. and then she's arrested, and tried, and convicted. you could find somebody who wasn't locked up. but you don't want anybody else.
10:56 pm
you want her. >> yeah, i want her. >> reporter: why is that? >> because i love her. and i want to spend the rest of my life with her. i think -- i think she's an awesome woman. she's everything that a man looks for in a woman. >> reporter: while we were talking with tim, he got a call. >> she went into detail. oh, can i get it. >> reporter: it was teresa calling from behind bars. she and tim caught up for a few minutes. then he put her on speaker. >> theresa, it's josh mankiewicz from dateline. >> hi. >> reporter: hi. how are you? >> could be better. could be worse. >> reporter: okay. i understand you and tim are engaged. >> yes we are. ain't that awesome? >> reporter: congratulations. >> thank you. thank you. i appreciate it. >> reporter: is there anything you want to say? >> well, i just want everybody to know that, you know, i'm innocent. i didn't do what they're accusing me of doing. i loved my husband. someday we'll know why he did
10:57 pm
what he did. >> reporter: you think he killed himself deliberately. >> i think it was an accidental suicide. i think he took in that antifreeze enough to make himself sick, and called me out there thinking that i would feel sorry for him because that's the type of person i am. >> this call is originating from an ohio correctional facility. >> reporter: i just wanna be clear. you think ray took the antifreeze deliberately, to make himself sick, and get you to come back to him? >> yes. yes. i believe that his intention was to get me to come back. >> reporter: do you think you'll be out of there one day? >> i believe i'm going to be out of here. i believe that the truth is going to set me free. i'm hoping that somebody really goes over this and finds out that i had no part of that. because they have no evidence on me. they have none. because there's no evidence there. >> i love you. we're going to get cut off, babe. >> thank you for using >> yeah.
10:58 pm
we got cut off. >> reporter: okay. well, thank you for letting us talk to her. we wanted to interview teresa in person but our request was denied by the department of corrections. teresa's hypothesis, that ray took antifreeze so she would come back to him, is one that her family and friends are on board with. they see teresa as a decent person who somehow attracts men who, through no fault of hers, become obsessed with her. let me make sure i understand. one guy, mr. reichert, wants to kill to have theresa. another guy, roy, makes up a story that she's a murderer because he doesn't want anybody else to have her. and ray tries to kill himself to get her to come back. have i got that about right? >> yeah. >> reporter: do you know anybody else around here who leads that kind of life, who drives men to do those kind of things? >> no. no. not at all. >> reporter: what's her secret? >> i have no idea.
10:59 pm
i think she's just a good woman. >> reporter: that's pretty much the opposite of what ray's daughter monica thinks. for her, this was all very personal. >> this was my dad. this was -- this was justice. this is the way it should be. you killed my father, somebody's going to pay for this. and damn well right she's going to. that's all for this edition
11:00 pm
now at 11:00, stuck in the dark for three months. neighbors concerned about safety because they can't get anyone to turn their street lights back on. plus a plane crash kills two in southern pennsyia


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on